Bye-bye bedrolls, buried coffee cans, hollow shaving cream bottles, shoe inserts — proceeds from marijuana can now be deposited in banks, according to recently loosened rules from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Network. Federal laws previously prevented banks from knowingly doing business with drug dealers. Perhaps feeling icy gazes from the nation's all-powerful banking magnates eager to cash in on a burgeoning, lucrative business, the Obama administration has lifted that ban, at least when it comes to state-approved pot businesses.
Thanks in a large part to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the issue has received increasing media attention, with a recent Time Magazine story detailing how Colorado pot shop owners are travelling with briefcases full of cash, dolling out payroll in $20 bills and financing multi-million-dollar construction projects with cold, hard cash. Noting that some of Colorado's marijuana entrepreneurs have taken to storing their money in secret, high-security warehouses, the story quotes Betty Aldworth, a former deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, as saying the lack of access to banking is "the single most dangerous aspect of legal marijuana."
But hold up. Provisions of the policy leave ultimate approval up to the state, and California relies on local ordinances to regulate dispensaries and collectives (so far the only legal marijuana businesses in the state), meaning it's as yet very unclear whether our local pot shops will be able to get a loan, deposit cash, or use credit card machines for transactions. (Read more about this issue at www.northcoastjournal.com/blogjammin.)
And if the banking ban continues on California's pot shops, their proprietors will likely focus their anger not at the Obama administration, but at the state legislature, which for the better part of two decades now has resisted all pushes to create an infrastructure for state medical marijuana dispensaries, instead kicking the can down the road to local governments.
And in an apparently unrelated, but unprecedented move that may have implications on the North Coast, Chase banks dealt a blow to cash industries by instituting a policy requiring ID to deposit cash into a Chase account — and that the depositor's name appear on the account. It's an apparent move to "combat misuse of accounts, including money laundering," according to a Chase representative quoted by FOX Business.
"Chill out, man. It's just weed." That's North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman's latest (paraphrased) message to Barack Obama. The federal government may be loosening marijuana restrictions in some ways, but not fast enough in others, according to the Huff, who last week joined 17 members of Congress, urging the president to loosen federal restrictions of marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act.
Marijuana's currently listed as a "Schedule I" controlled substance, lumping it in with the likes of heroin, ecstasy and peyote, and restricting the amount of legal testing that can be done with marijuana.
From the letter:
"Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana."
Huffman and other representatives (including one California Republican and Democrats from Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and other states) called for Obama to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to reclassify marijuana.
In what may prove to be incredibly effective birth control, a British company has introduced "Cannadoms" — condoms that are "green in colour with a realistic cannabis flavour and smell." For a Euro-and-a-half each, you can nearly guarantee no one will approach your reproductive organs.
Finally, in news surely to delight the nation's hillbillies, FOX News reports that cannabis-infused beef jerky will be the latest ganja snack to hit stores and dispensaries. Yum?